Local entrepreneur Terra Osman leveraged her self-taught development skills to create a mobile app that connects buyers and sellers of local produce and garden supplies.
After launching Farmish in mid-March, the app now has more than 100,000 downloads and 86,000 current users as Osman mulls how to grow the business further.
“We’ve really only been open for two months — my priority is to support our users and get those users what they need to be successful from a producer standpoint,” said Osman, a Comstock Park resident with a background in marketing.
Osman described her app as a “Craigslist for local food and farms.”
Farmish — which is available for download on all of the major app markets — allows food producers to set up a seven-day listing to advertise goods for sale. These products can range from eggs and other homegrown produce to trees, plants, flowers and garden supplies. Users that are looking to buy can browse by location to discover sellers nearby.
The app only connects both parties. Users don’t sell or process payments through the app. Osman has monetized Farmish by offering a premium account, which costs $14.99 a month and includes 10 active listings at once. A user forum provides resources for sellers, including information on topics such as building a brand, connecting with local customers and compliance.
Osman said she also is in conversations with brands “that align with her mission” to do direct advertising. But as an app that’s only two months old, Osman also acknowledged that the digital product is in its infancy and needs upgrades.
“I want to be able to serve those users,” Osman said. “If I can serve those users with bringing on an investment partner with money that can get us to where we need to be faster, I’m open to that.”
“The next stage will be a more custom app build,” she added. “This is definitely a first-stage application. Maybe we can connect with an investor that brings along those resources and really fuels the mission.”
Osman’s app provides a free or cost-efficient platform for independent growers who sell through farm stands or their own homes. These are not typically sellers who promote their products in any form.
“I grew up in Fremont. Living there, we knew who had the good corn. We knew who had the farm stand with the cherries and when the Smith family would put out apples,” Osman said. “We knew where those things were. … After settling in Kent County, it took me years to find those connections. They don’t have a marketing team, they don’t have a website. I’d have to poke around in old Facebook posts and groups.”
Osman’s efforts also have focused beyond West Michigan — Farmish is used nationwide and features listings in every state.
A growing market
Social media has been central to Farmish’s initial success. Osman maintains both personal and business accounts on TikTok. Her personal account has garnered 44,100 followers while the Farmish account has 18,400.
Osman rarely promotes the app, instead creating content that she thinks will appeal to gardeners and those interested in local food supply and systems. Her most-viewed video detailed how to create a $30 cedar raised garden bed.
The interest in her social media content then generated interest in the app.
“Those followers took it off that platform to their local communities, to their farmers markets and their Facebooks, and it really built up the network,” Osman said.
Osman also credits the pandemic for sparking a renewed interest in local food.
The National Gardening Association reported that the pandemic created 18.3 million new gardeners alone. The highest growth was among millennials.
Also, Boston-based marketing automation company Klayvio analyzed e-commerce statistics to reveal that sales of gardening tools doubled during the pandemic.
“I think it opened people’s eyes to how fragile our supply chain is,” Osman said of the pandemic. “We keep seeing new impacts of that — it’s not just limited to 2020. Families starting to produce their own food doesn’t feel like a trend — it feels like a necessity and something they’re incorporating into their lifestyle and culture.”
News coverage in the food/agribusiness section of MiBiz is made possible by advertising support from Dan Vos Construction Company. Dan Vos Construction strives to serve people and to enhance life, while maintaining long-term relationships with customers, sub-contractors and employees. This advertisement has no effect on editorial consideration in MiBiz.